Florida’s NCAA Tournament Hopes Hinge on a Win Over Kentucky

Posted by David Changas on March 1st, 2016

Just a few short weeks ago, Florida, with a lofty RPI and impressive strength of schedule, looked to be comfortably within the NCAA Tournament. On February 3, the Gators beat Arkansas to move to 7-3 in the SEC. A subsequent trip to Lexington did not go well — Florida lost to Kentucky, 80-61 — and things have gone steadily downhill ever since. Heading into tonight’s rematch with the Wildcats in Gainesville, the Gators have lost five of seven games and their position as a possible NCAA Tournament team is tenuous at best. Most bracketologists have already moved them out of the field of 68, but a win over Big Blue will go a long way towards putting Mike White‘s team back into position for a bid.

Michael White has Florida positioned for the NCAA Tournament (Rich Barnes/USA Today)

Mike White’s Gators probably need to beat Kentucky if they have any thoughts of going to the NCAA Tournament. (Rich Barnes/USA Today)

A close examination of Florida’s resume shows that the Gators have played a considerable number of quality teams but they haven’t won enough of them. Florida is currently 2-8 against RPI top-50 teams and 7-11 against teams in the top 100. While Florida has avoided any terrible losses (other than a blowout defeat at then-competitive Tennessee), its two best wins came against St. Joseph’s and West Virginia. The Gators have not made much hay in SEC play, as none of their eight conference wins have come against teams expected to make the NCAA field.

For all of its deficiencies, Florida can right the ship this evening with a win over the Wildcats. Kentucky is coming off a loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday and John Calipari’s team is never easy to beat in that scenario. They are also playing for an SEC championship, with Texas A&M making up a two-game deficit in the last 10 days to tie the Wildcats atop the SEC standings. While Kentucky closes out conference play with a grueling week (LSU visits on Saturday), the Aggies visit an overmatched Auburn team before taking on Vanderbilt at home. So if Florida wants to put itself in position to earn that elusive quality win it so desperately needs, White’s team will need to be at its very best. More like the team that looked on the rise a month ago than the one we’ve seen in Gainesville in recent weeks.

David Changas (157 Posts)

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